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Hundreds gather in town centre to give Denver Clinton a 'bright and bold' send-off

PUBLISHED: 13:04 02 March 2019 | UPDATED: 17:46 02 March 2019

Crowds gathered in Dereham to celebrate the life of Denver Clinton. (Taken with permission of family). Picture: Dan Bennett

Crowds gathered in Dereham to celebrate the life of Denver Clinton. (Taken with permission of family). Picture: Dan Bennett

Archant

A mid-Norfolk town was a sea of bright and bold colours as hundreds of people descended on it to give brave Denver Clinton a day "to be proud of".

Crowds gathered in Dereham to celebrate the life of Denver Clinton. (Taken with permission of family). Picture: Dan BennettCrowds gathered in Dereham to celebrate the life of Denver Clinton. (Taken with permission of family). Picture: Dan Bennett

From Power Rangers to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, superheroes from all corners of Norfolk turned out in Dereham to give the four-year-old, of Mattishall, near Dereham, a flamboyant farewell.

The boy “who melted hearts” died in the early hours of Valentine’s Day , just months after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

Today, his family and loved ones - as well as some of the thousands of well wishers who followed his story online via the Facebook group Denver’s Journey - said their final goodbyes to the cheeky chap who inspired many across the globe.

Speaking ahead of the day, his mum, Wanda Le Anne Clinton, said she wanted to give him a day he would “be proud of” and called on the community to join them.

Denver’s journey first started in May 2018 when, after a series of visits to the doctor with stomach pain, a mass was found. The cancer had spread to his lungs and he was diagnosed with stage four, high-risk neuroblastoma.

Although 95pc of the tumour was removed in August, the family received the devastating news three months later in November that he was no longer responding to treatment, and was given just a couple of months to live.

As the family focused on making memories with the boy who captured the hearts of people from all over the globe, they set up the group Denver’s Last Wishes to help him fulfil some of his biggest dreams.

His story even captured the heart of former heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, who recorded him a special video, and boxer Billy Joe Saunders, who spent time with Denver at his home.

The Dereham community came together in summer last year to create a special garden for Denver Clinton. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOPThe Dereham community came together in summer last year to create a special garden for Denver Clinton. Picture: DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP

The four-year-old accompanied Saunders to one of his fights, taking to the ring at both the workout and after Saunders’ victory over Charles Adamu at Manchester Arena.

The middleweight champion was also present at one of the final major events in support of Denver and his family - Denver’s Superhero Walk - which had become the inspiration behind Denver’s Celebration of Life.

On that day, more than 250 people turned out dressed as superheroes and hundreds more turned up on Saturday March 2 to watch Denver take his final journey through the town from Neatherd Moor to St Nicholas Church.

Saunders, who described Denver as “a true little champion”, was joined by his own family for the procession and walked behind Denver with his family and close loved ones to the church.

Crowds gathered in Dereham to celebrate the life of Denver Clinton. (Taken with permission of family). Picture: Dan BennettCrowds gathered in Dereham to celebrate the life of Denver Clinton. (Taken with permission of family). Picture: Dan Bennett

Following a church service, where Denver’s siblings paid a fitting tribute to their brother, the celebration of his life continued at a private gathering at the town’s Aldiss Park.

The family have pledged to make sure his name lives on in the community, who he inspired so much, and the Denver Clinton Foundation is in the process of being set up. The foundation will help other families affected by neuroblastoma.

A fitting send off

Crowds gathered in Dereham to celebrate the life of Denver Clinton. (Taken with permission of family). Picture: Dan BennettCrowds gathered in Dereham to celebrate the life of Denver Clinton. (Taken with permission of family). Picture: Dan Bennett

The procession was given a police escort and included a fire engine and crew from the Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, who also walked through the market town.

Dereham Town Council staff and councillors had also clubbed together to purchased a Superman flag, which was flown on Saturday from the flag pole at the war memorial. It was flown with a black ribbon.

Paul Sandford, landlord at the Railway Tavern, was one of the first to kick off the fundraising for Denver last year and also displayed a flag outside the pub which read “Dereham’s superhero Denver” along with pictures.

The life of Denver Clinton was celebrated in Dereham town centre. Picture: Wanda Le Anne ClintonThe life of Denver Clinton was celebrated in Dereham town centre. Picture: Wanda Le Anne Clinton

The family followed close behind Denver’s carriage and wore matching white hoodies with the words Team Denver written on them.

The coffin itself was covered in photos of Denver with his family, and his name written across in sparkling blue letters.

The procession of superheroes walked from Neatherd Moor, down Crown Road and Neatherd Road and then through the town centre to arrive at St Nicholas Church.

Denver’s service included fitting tributes from his siblings, beautiful heartfelt words from close family friends, and touching songs picked by the family.

A private gathering was held at the town’s Aldiss Park, where dozens of flowers had been laid by well wishers.

From the mother of the boy ‘who melted hearts’

Wanda Le Anne Clinton received the support of many from across the globe, including more than 6,000 thousand people who followed her son’s story via the Facebook group Denver’s Journey.

She raised Denver on her own from the moment she found out she was expecting him and had been the only parental provider for him during his life.

Describing the support as “invaluable”, she said: “As the mum and lone parent of Denver Philip Clinton I would personally like to thank the public supporters of Facebook for their care, concern and comments in such a awful time in mine and my family’s life.

“I would like to thank all my close friends - you know who you are. I could not have been so strong without all the help and support. You have sadly travelled this journey as well. Denver loved so many but in his heart he had special ones, which was very clear.

“All this support from the community, hospitals, friends, and followers has made a big difference and Denver will never be forgotten. His light will shine on forever in our memories.”

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